Video of PIIA Roundtable on Iran with Dr Syed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour

On Friday, July 19 2019, Dr. Syed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, President of the famous Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), visited us at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) for a roundtable on Iran’s relationship with the United States and how it is influencing the course of events in the region. He said that in order to understand the question of why Iran is the way it is today, it is important to comprehend three integral factors – the United States’ contradictory policies with Iran, the resulting state of bitterness, and an uneven assessment of the available possibilities. By laying emphasis on the contradictory policies of the United States, during very tense times, Dr. Kazem sought to explain how certain inconsistencies in the harsh policies of the United States have been a significant source of tension between the two countries, especially when pursuing negotiations and settling agreements.

ICJ Judgment in the Jadhav Case

This is the recent ICJ judgment in the important JADHAV CASE (INDIA v. PAKISTAN)The Court found that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in the matter of the detention and trial of an Indian national/spy, Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, has acted in breach of the obligations incumbent on it under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular RelationsTHE HAGUE, 17 July 2019. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, today rendered its Judgment in the Jadhav case (India v. Pakistan). In its Judgment, which is final, binding and without appeal, the Court,

(1) finds, unanimously, that it has jurisdiction, on the basis of Article I of the Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963, to entertain the Application filed by the Republic of India on 8 May 2017;

(2) rejects, by fifteen votes to one, the objections by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the admissibility of the Application of the Republic of India and finds that the Application of the Republic of India is admissible;

(3) finds, by fifteen votes to one, that, by not informing Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav without delay of his rights under Article 36, paragraph 1 (b), of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan breached the obligations incumbent upon it under that provision;

(4) finds, by fifteen votes to one, that, by not notifying the appropriate consular post of the Republic of India in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan without delay of the detention of Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav and thereby depriving the Republic of India of the right to render the assistance provided for by the Vienna Convention to the individual concerned, the IslamicRepublic of Pakistan breached the obligations incumbent upon it under Article36, paragraph 1 (b), of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations;

(5) finds, by fifteen votes to one, that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan deprived the Republic of India of the right to communicate with and have access to Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, to visit him in detention and to arrange for his legal representation, and thereby breached the obligations incumbent upon it under Article 36, paragraph 1 (a) and (c), of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations;

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Pakistan welcomes OHCHR report on Kashmir

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently provided an Update of the Situation of Human Rights in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019. The report is based on information collected by OHCHR through monitoring the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (consisting of the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu and Ladakh regions) and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir (Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan). It is issued pursuant to the mandate of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as provided by United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141.

The report of the OHCHR was seen by India as “false and motivated narrative” that ignored “the core issue of cross-border terrorism.”

Pakistan welcomed the report. However, Pakistan requested that sections be removed or amended in which the information was “not specific to Pakistan-Administered Kashmir but were general human rights concerns affecting all of Pakistan.”

Volodymyr Zelensky: From Satire to Sovereignty

Volodymyr Zelensky, 41, a comedian-turned-politician has been showered by votes, getting a landslide against the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko in recent Ukrainian presidential elections. No political mantras used, no aggression shown, no word for policy reforms said, Zelensky managed to win in a sweepingly unconventional way by a margin of nearly 73 per cent. Instead, he sold positive messages like, ‘I want to see joyful faces around’, and used catchphrases like ‘no promises’ ‘no disappointments.’ The victory is the upshot of a very subtle campaign led by Zelensky through the social media and his long-run sitcom, ‘the servant of people’ which attracted a huge influx of people. It was, Moshe Reuven Azman, the chief rabbi of Kiev said, ‘a miracle’ occurred on Sunday night. However, his clinching to power as a comic actor might come as a surprise, but the process behind it was still political in nature.

To put it more bluntly, his appearance in his self-produced sitcom as a teacher-turned president is no wonderful coincidence, but a noteworthy political act. World politics has changed and so have the ways of attaining political aims, but what is clear is that one cannot exclude the features of politics while achieving those gains.

What’s more, he has also studied law, which as a subject is deeply intertwined with politics. It can be argued that he was much more a politician doing comedy than a comedian entered the politics. It was noticeable that along with Zelensky’s comic identity, his Jewish originality was also ignored during the campaign despite the fact that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Ukraine. Zelensky’s triumph is significant because he has utilized his charisma, in a short span of time, to secure the highest position of the country. Volodymyr Fesenko, director of Kiev’s Penta think tank, said the comic’s popularity was underpinned by ‘a political myth created by the TV series.’

While Ukrainians have taken it as a moment of rejoicing, political analysts of the country are suspicious of the development saying whether, a person, having a grip on his comic characterization on television can do equally well in the political arena. Indeed, he shall not be able to use those dramatic techniques in realpolitik, at least, not while having any strategic dialogue with Russia on eastern Ukraine. However, before making a cloud of suspicion over Mr Zelensky’s abilities to run the country effectively, merely on the basis of his background, it is requisite to ensure that world, which is governed by politically savvy, is more adequate and faultless. Isn’t it disastrous in terms of governance where peace does not appear to be an option? Why, in the world, long-fought wars and conflicts have endured, despite the bilateral and multilateral initiatives taken by world leaders with strong political background and knowledge? One who is more politically-correct is more exploiting the system.

Ukrainians have chosen Zelensky as a new face, they had desired. Melinda Haring, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, said ‘it was clear the people wanted someone without the same baggage and connections to political dinosaurs.’

Furthermore, Zelensky is not the only conflicting figure in politics, but history is replete with such examples where actors have turned to be politicians. Fred Thompson, who was once a polished actor turned to politics, became the senator of the US, and served for nine years. Al Franken, former US senator, is a remarkable figure who despite his capabilities, had to face hardships because of his identity as a TV performer and comic author with zero political experience. Moreover, India is of much significance in this context where politics seems to be the final destination of many senior film and TV actors, governing as ministers or MPs.

Apart from the entire jigsaw, what matters most is commitment and credible approach towards the issues of which people are frustrated and are previously not taken on serious note i.e., corruption, mismanagement, crimes, and other civil society issues. Criticism and controversies would fade away if steps are taken in the right direction. In line with the presidential victory, Zelensky has to maintain a similar pace in the forthcoming parliamentary election as well, which will be a fate decider for him. It remains to be seen in reality, if Zelensky can do justice with the character he played on TV.

The author, Aciph Alee, is a researcher in PIIA. 

References:

Dmytro Gorshkov and Olga Shylenko, ‘Zelensky: Ukrainian clown or political wonder boy?’, The Times of Israel, 20 April 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/zelensky-ukrainian-clown-or-political-wonder-boy/

Tamila Varshalomidze, ‘Five things to know about Ukraine’s presidential vote winner’, Aljazeera, 22 Apr 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/5-ukraine-presidential-vote-winner-190422063051756.html

Andrew Higgins, ‘Ukraine’s Newly Elected President Is Jewish. So Is Its Prime Minister. Not All Jews There Are Pleased’, The New York Times, 24 April 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/world/europe/volodomyr-zelensky-ukraine-jewish-president.html

Ukraine election: Comedian Zelensky wins presidency by landslide, BBC, 22 April 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48007487

Programme for PIIA Conference on Climate Change

There is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on Earth but the glaciers are melting and Pakistan is considered to be the seventh most vulnerable country in the world in respect of climate change. The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs is holding a Conference on Climate Change: An Existential Challenge for Pakistan on 3 and 4 May 2019. The full programme is available below.

Video: PIIA event on Afghanistan

PIIA recently held a talk on the Afghan conflict and foreign forces are to blame for the Afghan conflict according to Rustam Shah Mohmand. Indeed, the former Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan urges Pakistan to shift focus away from India.“The India-centric approach will have to be reviewed because it doesn’t deliver much” he said.

Shafaq Khursheed: Beloved “Our Lady” of Paris

Clouds of grief surrounded Paris when the beloved Notre Dame caught the raging inferno at dusk of April the 15th. Notre Dame is French term for “Our Lady” which refers to Virgin Mary. As the name suggests, the sentiments of people for this medieval icon are profound. What happened to this beautiful cathedral is not just a tragic disaster for Catholics but for people across the globe who admired and respected this amazing feat of architecture and its significance. Millions of people witnessed the destruction with horror and silent prayers for its survival. The gothic edifice was built 850 years ago, the first stone was laid in 1163 but it took 200 years in addition to complete its structure. This beautiful icon has survived damages of French Revolution and the two World Wars largely unscathed and has been the French capital’s most famous landmark since. Around 13 million visitors from all over the world come every year to pray and view sacred items and to see the wonderful artwork and relics including Christ’s crown of thrones which he wore before the crucifixion.

Although there has been no loss of life in the tragedy but the damage of culture, history, art and heritage is too big to turn a blind eye to. Monuments like these are not only a source of attraction for tourists but they represent a certain era. They have the power to take one back in a particular time of history and serves a great opportunity of learning and imagination. Notre Dame represented the true cultural significance of French History. The building’s proud spire and wooden roof now lie in ruins and the interior almost entirely destroyed. The funds to restore the cathedral has topped 700 million dollars in just 24 hours and the French President Emmanuel Macron vows to make the monument stand tall again in a span of five years.

But the bottom line is, the reconstruction would just be an alteration of the rich medieval gothic architecture which it was famous for and even that is not possible in just five years time. Lastly, this is an alarming reminder for the global community and especially the third world countries to preserve heritage sites and buildings as well as maintain their classicism and own them for they are the true representation of how civilized a nation is.

The author, Shafaq Khursheed, is a researcher at PIIA. Continue reading